History of NATO’s Air Headquarters at Ramstein Air Base

Headquarters Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE) was established at Ramstein Air Base on 28 June 1974 as a principal subordinate command under Allied Forces Central Europe. Its task was to provide direction and control for the air forces in the European Central Region through the coordination of the two existing headquarters, Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF), based at Rheindahlen, which covered the northern part of the region, and Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (4ATAF), based at Heidelberg, which was responsible for the southern area.

During the early 1990s, following the relaxation of the tensions between East and West, a major reorganisation of the NATO Command Structure was planned. To into account the decreased number of Allied aircraft in Europe, a rationalisation of the Central Region air force headquarters occurred during closing 2ATAF and 4ATAF. AAFCE expanded to meet the increased task load as it absorbed functions previously undertaken by the ATAFs. This change in structure was marked by a ceremony at Ramstein on 1 July 1993, when the headquarters was officially formed and renamed AIRCENT.

A further consequence of the NATO reorganisation was an increase in the area of responsibility for Allied Forces Central Europe by the addition of Denmark and the northern parts of Germany, both of which were previously under Allied Forces Northern Europe command. As a result, Denmark joined the six nations, which staffed the air headquarters since its inception: Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

HQ AAFCE building prior to 2005(left) and the new HQ AIRCOM building which opened in 2005(right)

In March 1999, with the accession of three new members – Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, the latter two became part of the Central Region and have since contributed to AIRCENT’s tasks and missions. Later that fall, HQ AIRCENT added personnel from Norway, Hungary, Italy and Spain.
On 3 March 2000, HQ AIRNORTH was established by the amalgamation of the former HQ AIRNORTHWEST (High Wycombe, United Kingdom) and HQ AIRCENT, and by transfer of the air responsibilities of HQ BALTAP and HQ NORTH.
With the accession of seven new members (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia) in March 2004, the Baltic States Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as Slovakia became a part of the Northern Region. HQ AIRNORTH was then renamed Component Command-Air Headquarters Ramstein and a new internal HQ-structure was implemented.
Under a NATO Command Structure reorganisation in 2010, the Headquarters was renamed to Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein or HQ AC Ramstein, while the Air Power headquarters for the Southern Europe was located in Izmir, Turkey.
Finally the most recent reorganisation of the NATO Command Structure came into effect in December 2012 reducing Allied Command Operations to seven international headquarters with 8,800 posts. As a consequence, the two Air Power Commands at Ramstein and Izmir were amalgamated at Ramstein Air Base. Since January 2013, NATO has had one Allied Air Command or AIRCOM at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, which is now responsible for all Air and Space matters within NATO.


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